[A Pig at Large: November 12, 2009]
So there I was, just over a week ago, pleasantly buzzing on Iron Horse fizz, and set to move from the opening drinks at the Foodbuzz convention across the street to the Ferry Building where a series of the city's best street vendors were laying out supper.
Yes, the first thing one found was cold beer and a menu. Then, a little further along the passageway at the front of the building...
I may as well cut to the chase. At the end of all the tasting and sipping, this was the clear highlight of the entire festival. Every single person I engaged on the subject agreed. Simple, but about the best of its kind you could imagine: porchetta fresh-sliced from the spit, on an Acme roll (ludicrously described as a "mini" porchetta roll on the menu). Cress, a dab of sweetness from the onion marmalade; and then outstanding potatoes with a buttery texture, crusted with salt, garlic and rosemary, crisped in the fat from the meat.
I couldn't help making the comparison with Sara Jenkins's East Village Porchetta. That's good, but this was so much better. Rich and tender, with crisp shards of skin instead of chewy strips, and boundless flavor. I understand the cart, in everyday life, puts out fine roast chickens too.
Perhaps not the best idea to take that dish as an appetizer. But there was a perfect way to pause throughout the evening, by joining the short, fast-moving line for the Hog Island Oyster Co.'s knockout kumamotos. The shucker, at some risk of carpal tunner syndrome, shucked all night: you joined the line, picked out an oyster, lemoned it, sucked it down, and went immediately to the rear of the line again. I must have circuited a couple of dozen times.
As Liebling has said, oysters present no bulk, and I was soon able to sample the pizza by Pizza Politana.
Fresh made as you can see, with a restrained topping - eggplant primarily, with salty feta and olive accents - it came with the crust the way I like it.
I am certainly no fan of New York style pizza, with its typically heavy toppings and crust leaning towards damp and doughy. This crust was thin but supportive, and neatly charred. Excellent.
If I am no pizza maven, I have to say that I was raised on meat pies and have strong opinions on them. Meat pies, in fact, are one of the few things which make me feel like a nostalgic ex-pat; they can be found at a few British and Australian outlets in Manhattan, but an American thing they're not. Except, perhaps, in the case of the Pie Truck, a popular Mission vendor. They went fast here, and indeed the only one I got my hands on was the beef and Gruyère.
This pleased the crowd almost as much as the porchetta, but I am fussy. The filling was luxurious, but the pastry didn't hold up. The heat and moisture left you with a handful of pastry fragments and an oozing interior.
Of the rest, I never warmed to the chicharrones by 4505 meats. They had the appearance and consistency of prawn crackers, and I like my chicharrones straight from the pig - thick skinned and tooth-breakingly crunchy. A Tacolicious taco didn't especially set itself apart from other good tacos; but I was pleased with cashew-cream spread "flatbread" from Alive, a raw food street vendor.
And what could I possibly do after this, but hike up to Vesuvio, one of the city's finer bars, to settle my stomach with some more cold beer.
Apologies, by the way to Boulevard, which I apparently dismissed in the previous post as the "bistro" inside the Audifredd Building. Apparently it's more notable than that.
More coming soon...